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Questions

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food truck tip of the day

Asking a lot of questions is one behavior that successful food truck owners share. Instead of just rushing to take action, posing questions helps you solidify the entire innovation process by improving your ability to spot new growth opportunities and pinpoint problems.

Consider using questions like these to increase your odds of success in the mobile food industry:

  • What problem is the customer struggling to solve? In most situations its how, when and where to feed their hunger. Understand where your customers are when they are there and how you can solve their hunger pangs in ways other trucks miss the mark..
  • Who has already solved this problem? It’s likely that some other food truck vendor has already found a solution in a different region of the country. Gaining inspiration from their successful approach can speed up your process.
  • What can you do that few other food trucks can do?  Zero in on what makes you unique to maximize the chances of creating desirable menu offerings.

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When I woke up this morning, I continued with one of my traditional morning rituals…check the projected weather for the day. While we’re still in October, my weather app told me that Chicagoland area residents have a 60 percent chance of getting snow today.

food truck in snow

Yup, its that time of year again. Winter is here (at least temporarily) in the Midwest and food truck owners need to start planning for their winter operations. Where will people come out of their warm offices to spend time in a line for their favorite food truck? How many people will brave the weather to make a lunch or late night food run? Do the tires on the truck have enough tread to keep safe while on the snowy or icy roads?

While we have previously provided articles covering some general tips for food truck owners who operate in the cold weather regions of the country, today we thought it would be good to answer a question we received the other day lately. This question was regarding propane usage in the winter.

Question

During winter months my propane cooking equipment doesn’t get hot enough. Is this true that propane does not perform well in cold conditions? Should I get something to keep the tank warmer?

Answer

The boiling point of propane is the temperature in which it won’t vaporize from it’s liquid form. Propane will still vaporize at temps as low as -44 degrees, unless you are running your food truck around in temps that low (and really, who is going to stand in line for your menu at those temps?), the propane in the tank will perform to the levels it does in warmer months.

With that said, when temps reach -20 degrees the pressure within the tank can decrease, but because your propane system runs with an inline pressure regulator this drop in tank pressure will not affect the temperatures in which your equipment needs to maintain to cook your food.

In regards to the second part of the question, we always suggest keeping your truck indoors over night, this will keep an unprotected water system from freezing up and will help keep your whole truck at warmer temps. Purchasing a blanket or warmer for your food truck’s propane tank will do nothing to help keep your equipment temps higher. So the simple answer is no.

Tip: To help maintain a high level of pressure in your propane tank in the winter, make sure not to run your tank too low. This will vary from tank to tank, but by keeping more propane in the tank you are using, the better the pressure it will maintain inside.

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Since its introduction, pizza has been a favorite meal for Americans, so why wouldn’t pizza become a favorite menu item on food trucks since they have hit American streets?

delpopolo pizza truck

Del Popolo’s is a traveling pizza truck located in San Francisco, that features an impressive wood-fired pizza oven

We have assisted a few pizza vendors in developing and executing various types of pizza concepts in the last year. Having worked with various types of ovens  (gas-fired, electric and wood) we are often asked to explain the difference on both culinary and operational fronts: Gas? Wood? Electric?

Authentic wood-fired pizza can require a great commitment of labor, capital and training. Any mobile food vendor who chooses this path needs to do so from an essential passion for the authenticity of this method. Without this core passion and belief, the financial, operational, spatial, environmental and training requirements are not justified.

So what are the initial questions that an food truck owner who wants to make pizza should take?

Does the concept really require a wood-burning oven?

Will using a wood burning oven make the defining difference? Wood is not and has not been essential to making great pizza. Great pizza can be produced in gas and electric hearthstone ovens – or even a conveyor.

Great ingredients, consistency of execution, good recipes and proper cooking; no matter the fuel source, make great pizza.

Do you have space?

You must know your menu to project the volume of sales you need to make a profit which will determine the size of the oven you can build. Please note the size of your mobile kitchen will need to also be considered when determine how large an oven you can build. Along with the space is the venting, which can be expensive for a wood-burning oven. In some cases, the venting can cost more than the oven. You also need to figure in the cost of cleaning hoods and ducts, which is critical for fire prevention within your food truck.

Do you have a reliable source of wood?

It’s costly and must be stored (inside and outside of the truck) and dried properly. That cost must be factored into food costs or else profitability can erode. Another skill set to consider is managing the fire. Feeding the wood properly is critical for a consistent oven temperature. Employees must be trained to turn, rotate, lift and monitor each pizza so that it cooks correctly.

Can you burn wood in your area?

Food truck vendors need to be absolutely sure of the wood-burning codes in their areas. Cooking over wood is banned in some places. Even if it’s not, how will the vented smoke affect the neighbors in the spots you park your truck?

Once you have answered all of these questions, you should confidently be able to proceed with the way in which you cook your food truck’s pizza items.

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tip of the dayIt takes a lot of bravery to open up your own food truck and finally pursue your big idea. There are plenty of risks in becoming a mobile food vendor, but for those who are successful, the benefits are plentiful. Here are three questions to ask yourself before hitting the streets in your own food truck:

  • Do you have a concept? It can’t just be any concept. Your food truck concept has to be something you feel deeply passionate about and no one can talk you out of (because they will try).
  • Do you have a trusted partner? Starting a mobile food business can be lonely. Doing it with someone else, especially if they has complementary skills, can make the road smoother and more fun.
  • Do you do best without structure? For many food truck owners, this is the biggest challenge. If you thrive when there is no clear path and lots of uncertainty, it may be time to foster your inner culinary entrepreneur.

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tip of the dayNo food truck owner likes to take a hard question from a skeptical prospective customer. But since providing good answers is often the difference between winning and losing their business, it pays to get it right:

  • Clarify the question before answering it. Repeat it back in your own words or ask the customer to explain further. You don’t want to address a question that wasn’t even asked.
  • Provide an expert point of view. Your customer is more likely to trust a consultant who has intimate knowledge of the mobile food industry than someone who simply understands how the industry works. Show that you can apply your expertise to solve the customer’s problems.
  • Stay calm. Demeanor speaks volumes. Regardless of the question, be confident and don’t get defensive.

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Food truck catering has become a valuable source of income for mobile food vendors. From private parties to wedding receptions, food truck owners have found a great way to endear themselves to the communities they operate in.

questions-to-ask

While many food truck owners find these types of catering events a great alternative to hitting the streets two or three times a day, five to six times a week, some we have spoken with have had issues with closing these deals and thus lose out on the opportunity altogether.

There always seems to be three plans of attack when it comes to meeting with the couples. The pitch planned before meeting the couple, the one that is actually made, and the one they wish they’d given afterwards.

Most truck owners have had the thought after sitting down with a party or bridal couple who is undecided or who never called back. Was it something we said? Or, perhaps, was it something that was left unsaid?

Today’s bridal couples are extremely knowledgeable. But most really need a lot of coaching from a food truck owner, so they can help them turn their dreams into reality. Most will agree that lots of couples come in, and when asked whether they’d like a buffet, seated-served or food stations, you often get a blank stare.

Great salespeople ask the right questions at the right time, keep their mouths shut, listen and take copious notes. That’s why they’re great and why they close more sales than other salespeople who start talking and never stop.

Here are 10 questions that you may want to ask while meeting with party or wedding couples and discussing proposals. Their answers to each of these questions will help you identify things that they will not tell you if you ask them directly – all you need to do is listen, and listen between the lines.

  1. What would you like to know about our food truck catering business?
  2. Why did you decide to meet with us?
  3. What is of high importance and what is of lesser importance for services such as food, venue, bar service, music, etc.?
  4. Are there particular areas that you would like to discuss today?
  5. What do you want your guests to say about your party or reception?
  6. In deciding which catering company to use, what’s most important to you?
  7. What aspects do you like about us, our business and our proposal? I sense that you have some hesitation. Can you help me to understand what is behind that?
  8. What aspects concern you?
  9. Who will be making the final catering decision? Is there anyone else who I need to meet with?
  10. From your perspective, what is the next step?

Obviously, there are hundreds of additional questions, but these are great starters, and we guarantee if begin asking your prospective clients and listen intently (and between the lines), you will considerably improve your closing percentages.

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tip of the day

Asking questions is an essential skill of any great boss in the mobile food industry. Yet many owner/operators fail to inquire enough. Here are three types of questions you should be asking:

  • Questions about yourself: Good food truck owners ask themselves and others about what they could do better. Ask in a way that invites constructive, candid responses…without the fear of retribution if an answer is critical.
  • Questions about future plans and projects: These should both advance the business or menu and develop your staff. Tough and direct questions are ok, as long as they are in the interest of progress of your business or your employees.
  • Questions about your mobile business: Look for ways that your roaming bistro can function more effectively by questioning practices and processes. Ask: Why do you do things a particular way and if there is a better approach?

 

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